Autonomous Vehicle Testing At Windsor-Detroit Tunnel

Friday, July 28, 2017

Blackburn News/Adelle Loiselle


Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens does not doubt that within his life time, autonomous vehicles will frequently pass through the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel.

However, there is a lot to do first to make sure the technology works. How does a car, driven entirely on its own, can know which lane in which to pass? Will it know where to stop at customs, or how to proceed to secondary inspection if need be? Even maintain power through the tunnel should it lose its signal under all that concrete.

To find the answers to those questions, the Cities of Windsor and Detroit are launching a pilot project to test fully autonomous vehicles at the tunnel.

Already an autonomous vehicle has passed through the border at the tunnel, but it was a limited test. The driver had to pull it out of autonomous mode to perform some manoeuvres.

“It’s a big leap to go from a sterile lane to Aunt Mary going through in her personal car,” says CEO of the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Corporation, Stephen MacKenzie saying this project will move the technology into “prime time.”

There are also road tests already underway in Stratford and Willow Run in Michigan, but Dilkens says this will tax the technology far more.

“The goal here is not just to undertake research for the purpose of research and reporting out. This is with real life scenarios,” he insists barely containing his enthusiasm.

Dilkens fully expects the project to come up during the private meeting between Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Windsor City Council. He says it will take advantage of a recent Memorandum of Understanding between Ontario and Michigan involving light weight materials and alternative fuel sources. He says the city is tacking on technology to the MOU.

The province also has an $80-million pot of cash Dilkens would like to leverage. He figures $3-million each year of the project is a reasonable amount to ask of the government. The economic corporation will handle the paper work to apply for a grant.

MacKenzie says there are companies, like Blackberry’s QNX division, already interested in taking part in the project. Canada Border Services Agency, Homeland Security and the Michigan Department of Transportation will also have a stake in the research.